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What's happening on the Tappan Zee Bridge project?

The state is moving very rapidly through the environmental review process with final decisions expected in a few weeks.

In New Paltz today, 150 leaders from every sector of the Hudson Valley economy gathered to discuss this question: “Is There a Hudson Valley Regional Agenda?”

Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro kicked off the seminars by suggesting, "There are two questions we need to ask ourselves today: Who are we as a people? How do we want to live?"  

Since a big challenge faced in our mid-Hudson counties is halting the onslaught of sprawl, I chose to attend the breakout on the Tappan Zee Bridge, which turned out quite interesting. 

From 2001 to 2011, the region spent a decade developing ideas for the TZ Bridge and the 30 mile length of I-287/87 corridor from Suffern in Rockland County to Port Chester in Westchester County. The price tag for replacing the TZB and upgrading that entire stretch of highway to add new east-west public transit came to $15 billion. 

As Tom Guiness from the NY Thruway Authority told us today, “That was just too expensive.” Indeed. 

So the state terminated the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Corridor project was terminated in 2011. Instead, the state opened a new, much more limited project focussed just on building a replacement Tappan Zee Bridge.

The new project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement, issued in January 2012, drew over 3,000 comments (note: the comment period is now closed).  In the last step before selecting contractors, the state will issue the Final Environmental Impact Statement in July 2012. 

The DEIS states the following in its Executive Summary:

“Certain transit provisions will be included in this project to maximize the public investment. These provisions could include added width, a gap between structures, providing certain grades and increased design loadings. Through the inclusion of design features that maximize the public investment, the bridge design will provide the flexibility to potentially allow for both Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Commuter Rail Transit (CRT), should a viable plan be developed and implemented in the future.”

As Nadine Lemmon of the Tri-StateTransportation Campaign reminded us, many of the 3,000 comments showed how strongly that the public still wants a public transit integrated into the new bridge.

Mr Guiness told us the new bridge “is being designed to accommodate BRT.” Specifically, the both spans will be sufficiently wide to accommodate a high occupancy vehicle lane for buses and a breakdown lane on each shoulder. 

The northern span will be wider than the southern space in order to add a separate, protected bicycle/pedestrian lane.  The bike-ped lane will have an eastern terminus near Route 9 in Tarrytown and a western terminus near Broadway in Nyack. That is good news.

However, the “Tarrytown Connector” envisioned in the original “Corridor” concept to bring bus rapid transit down from the bridge to the train station is not part of the scope of this new project. So we may not see any improvement in helping Rockland commuters get to Manhattan bound trains.

Meanwhile, using a design-build approach that is relatively new to New York, the state has begun the process of identifying a team of firms who will be selected to design and construct the bridge, presumably on time and budget. The state expects submission from interested design-build teams in the next month. 

To accommodate the migration and overwintering habits of the Hudson’s endangered sturgeon, the window for any dredging needed for the massive new footings is between August and November.  

Although it seems lightning fast to get started with dredging just eight months after issuing a DEIS for a project this large, it does seem the state wants to start construction this fall.  

Governor Cuomo has certainly moved this process along with all the focus and speed that he laid out in his "jobs, jobs, jobs" message while travelling the state to sign the 2012 state budget. 

Back to Mr Molinaro's question about how we want to live: 

Will the new TZB help reduce vehicle miles traveled and avoid making our sprawl worse without operational pubilc transit? 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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